TRANSLATION OF THE LETTER TO EPHESIANS WITH COMMENT
For this reason, I, Paul, Messiah Jesus’ prisoner on behalf of you Gentiles – ( of course you will have heard of the management of God’s kindness which was given to me for you; how the secret was made known to me by God’s disclosure, as I have already written in a brief account. By reading it you can note my grasp of the secret of Messiah, which was not made known to human beings in past generations, as it has now been disclosed to his holy emissaries and prophets by the spirit: that the Gentiles are joint-inheritors, members of the same body, and sharers of the same promise in Messiah Jesus, by means of the joyful message.
I became a minister of this message by God’s kindness, given to me through the operation of his power; to me, the least important of all the holy ones, was given this kindness, to announce to the Gentiles the uncountable riches of Messiah, and to let everyone see clearly the secret plan hidden for ages in God, who created everything: that through the Assembly of Jesus the variegated wisdom of God would be made known to the Rulers and Authorities in the heavens. This was in agreement with his eternal intention which he carried out in Messiah Jesus our Master, in whom, by his faithfulness, we have free speech and confident access to God. So I beg you not to let my afflictions on your behalf weaken you; they are your splendour.)
The variegated wisdom of God
In this passage, which is mainly in parenthesis to the main argument of the letter, the author most directly speaks as Paul, probably known to the readers as a martyr in the Neronian persecution. Paul’s special place in the transmission of the joyful news is celebrated, with some attention to Paul’s theology, but with a change of focus, which makes the Assembly the centre of the story, rather than Jesus and faith in him. The author does not neglect Jesus, but his aim is to focus on the Assembly as the result of the Jesus events. God by means of the assembly of Jesus is altering the political reality of the world, so that this multi- ethnic community becomes central to God’s way of opposing the powers of evil. This astonishing re-write of the story of Israel is presented as the unique contribution of Paul to whom it was “disclosed” by God. The wonder of this divine plan is indicated in the phrases, “secret plan”, “uncountable riches”, “variegated wisdom”. It involves not only the existence of the assembly, but also the intimate access of its members to God.
As this human community united in God the Assembly is serious news for the superhuman powers of evil. These powers have attempted identify wealth and wisdom as belonging to one enterprise only, say, orthodox Jewish faith, or Imperial Rome. God’s secret is that the wealth of Messiah is uncountable and the wisdom of God is variegated, because it is all-inclusive and all-available. God’s offered wealth and wisdom utterly outstrip the attempt of the powers to offer these as a scarce commodity that only favoured customers can acquire. God puts up no barriers – speech is free and access is open- that’s the joyful news entrusted to the assembly of Jesus.